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Lilly Endowment Grants $92 Million to Dozens of Christian Groups for Nurturing Faith in Children

In an effort to support the spiritual growth of the nation’s children, Lilly Endowment has granted a total of $92 million to 77 Christian organizations through its Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative. 

The initiative aims to create or expand home-based programs and parent networks that will nurture the faith of young people across different branches of Christianity, representing diverse racial and ethnic groups.

Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion, emphasized the importance of families in shaping the religious development of children. He stated, “We’ve heard from many parents who are seeking to nurture the spiritual lives of their children, especially in their daily activities, and looking to churches and other faith-based organizations for support.”

Coble praised the thoughtful and collaborative organizations that embrace the role of parents in this vital task.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many traditional methods of children’s ministry, including Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and other in-person activities. As a result, parents and church leaders are searching for innovative ways to engage children in lives of faith, both inside and outside of church buildings.

The grants will help support the first five years of these programs, with most initiatives expected to begin later this year.

Lilly Endowment cited the National Study of Youth and Religion, which highlights the significant influence parents have on their children’s religious practices, beliefs, and values. Recognizing this influence, the grant recipients aim to provide support and guidance to parents navigating the challenges of raising children in the context of faith.

Among the recipients is Esperanza, a Philadelphia-based organization focused on strengthening Hispanic faith-based organizations. With its $1.25 million grant, Esperanza plans to expand its services to help families and caregivers share their values and faith with their children.

The organization will hold “train-the-trainer” events for congregational leaders at predominantly Hispanic churches, with an emphasis on faith development.

Middle Collegiate Church, a New York congregation, also received a $1.25 million grant. Their proposal to Lilly Endowment outlined plans to use books, mealtime conversation cards, and parental guides to offer biblical and action-oriented stories that engage children and families. Their objective is to nurture children’s development of a trustworthy theology and daily practices of faith through the power of storytelling.

The Yvette A. Flunder Foundation, affiliated with the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland, California, and supporting the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, has been approved for a $930,000 grant. Bishop Yvette Flunder, the foundation’s executive director, aims to develop books, curricula, and home activities to support Black LGBTQ families.

The foundation plans to create a “Radically Inclusive Parenting Project” that provides both in-person and online spaces for supporting parents and caregivers, along with a certificate program for faith leaders to implement similar programs in their communities.

Calvary Lutheran Church, a rural Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Alexandria, Minnesota, received a grant of $976,470. Their plans involve providing parents with technological tools to guide their children’s faith, acknowledging the challenges of isolation and busy schedules for rural families.

The June grantees represent a continuation of the initiative, with an additional 22 organizations having received grants in 2022, bringing the total funding to over $124 million. These substantial investments from Lilly Endowment are expected to have a significant impact on fostering a strong foundation of faith in the nation’s children and youth.

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